How to paint oak furniture white

Written by megan shoop
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How to paint oak furniture white
Oak is a hard, sturdy wood. (Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Oak furniture lasts for dozens of years with proper care. Since oak is a dense hardwood with a tight grain, it wears slowly, even under hard use. Oak also develops a golden patina over time, giving it a luxuriant antique look. However, if you want to paint oak furniture white, this patina can be a problem. Unless you apply the paint properly, your white furniture will turn yellow and look stained.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Steel wool
  • Cheesecloth
  • Oil-based white primer
  • Turpentine
  • Plastic bucket
  • 1-inch, flat-bristle brush
  • White enamel paint
  • Soft paintbrush
  • Felt cloth

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  1. 1

    Rub the entire piece of furniture with coarse steel wool. This removes any rough burrs or raised places that may cause your paint job to look uneven. Wipe down the piece with cheesecloth to remove sawdust roughed up by the wool.

  2. 2

    Pour equal amounts turpentine and oil-based white primer into a plastic bucket. Stir them together well with the tip of your paintbrush.

  3. 3

    Paint a smooth, even coat of primer onto your piece. Work from the bottom up, painting with the grain as much as possible. Allow the primer to dry for about 48 hours, and apply a second primer coat going opposite the grain. Oil-based primer will soak into the wood grain and help prevent yellowing. It "traps" the tannins in the oak and keeps your paint job white.

  4. 4

    Apply a coat of white enamel paint over the dry primer. Use a soft-bristled brush and move either across or with the grain; do not change direction in the middle of the job. You want your paint job to be as smooth as possible. Allow the enamel to dry for 24 hours, and apply another coat. Let the paint cure for 48 hours.

  5. 5

    Rub the entire furniture piece down with a felt cloth. This relieves some of the intense shine from the enamel and gives your piece a slick, polished look.

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